If Mama ain’t healthy–ain’t nobody healthy.


Mama <3’s Shrek Shakes. Child <3’s Shrek Shakes.

 The longer I’m a parent the more clearly I see the link between how I’m living and how my family is thriving.

Or not thriving.

The longer the moniker MAMA is attached to me the more clear the meaning becomes behind the (tweaked) quote:

If mama aint healthy aint nobody healthy

I’m a misfit.

I’m BRAZEN non-traditional.

I was raised on Free To Be You And Me.

I’m happily living in a feminist, egalitarian relationship with the Husband.

I still believe the core of our family’s healthy living comes from me.


me. circa 2012.

I don’t know if this is because I’m the mother (we’ve chatted about how I have a broad definition of the word).

I don’t know if this is because I’m the one who is lucky enough to work from home.

I do know the bulk of the responsibility to keep our tripod healthy & thriving falls on my shoulders.

And, while exercise is one facet of our family’s healthy living focus.

It’s a small piece in the 6 part puzzle which helps keep us a healthy, strong family unit.

  • We focus on quality. For our family to thrive we need to consume quality. This quality refers to more than food.  I work to create quality conversation in our home. We treat each other how we want to be treated. I work to model polite & courteous interaction. Quality consumption extends to popular culture. I’m mindful what pop culture is consumed at home. We are what we eat refers to more than food. Choose quality.


  • We MONOtask. When the Tornado was tiny I watched how singularly focused she was. When she played with blocks —she played with blocks! She never simultaneously mashed clay, assembled a puzzle *and* block-played. Be the Tornado. Slow down. Be present. Mono-task.


  • We find joy in the small stuff. I love the quote: Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things. I strive to live this daily.  Joyful laughter lowers stress, boosts the immune system and can help protect us from heart disease. Sure, laughter can be easier said than done, yet when I focus on small gifts in my life (the Tornado’s hand in mine. a text from a friend) I really do lead a far less frazzled life.


  • I’ve shed the guilt. As a parent it’s not important to take care of ourselves—we owe it to our family to do so. I put myself first. I’ve made the conscious decision to meet my needs then shift focus to others. I remind myself I am teaching the Tornado it’s ok to have needs, meet them and *then* do unto others.  I still sometimes articulate to her what I’m doing (Mama needs to take care of herself, have a snack and after that I can help you.), I may never shed the guilt *enough* to get beyond that, and it’s ok.


  • We come togetherwhen it works for us. Research shows family dinners create healthier, happier children less prone to destructive behavior. Family dinners, with after-school activities, have shown to be crazymakers for moms (Carla note: my study. zero science.) We do family breakfasts & rarely dinners. The important piece is coming together.  Gather when fits your lifestyle.


  • We play. The family who plays together is the family who stays healthy together. This play changes our family changes. For us it takes the form of playground time. Later we may be get into soccer, tennis or family fun runs. Whatever form your play takes–this physical activity and connection helps cement the family-unit and keep it healthy.

As I wrote & reflected on the past eight years, I noted how the ways we stay healthy have shifted as the Tornado has gotten older & we’ve grown busier.

I still believe, however, if Mama aint healthy aint nobody healthy.

Which makes me long to ask:

Be it experiences as a parent or as a child has my mangled quote been true in your life experience?

Do you, too, believe:



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  1. says

    I agree that a healthy mama (in all sense of the word) is key for a happy family. I know some women who struggle to take care of themselves and feel guilty for doing so- but it’s not helping anyone when they are miserable!

  2. says

    Even though I’m not a Mom I know if that day ever comes everything I do will help set a tone and example for my children. So, I will always strive to be happy & healthy!

  3. says

    Love this!
    My oldest begs to run with me. Since I run before dawn (plus it’s my ME time), it doesn’t happen often, but I love that she WANTS (or thinks she wants) to get up at 4am to run.
    Our little ladies help in the kitchen a lot. This has helped mold their eating habits. They’ve never met a veggie tray they didn’t like. We often bribe out little one, “Eat three bites of protein and you can have more salad.” :)

  4. says

    I couldn’t agree more!! I think it is important for mom (and dad) to have time for what they need to be healthy. It might be running, lunch with a friend, date night etc, but we need to be whole to be there for our children and I think, raise them to be whole adults

  5. says

    Well, you know what my husband eats if left to his own devices! Sometimes I get frustrated at being responsible for healthy eating in our house but since that’s how I want to eat I suck it up and throw an extra handful of frozen veggies into that stir-fry.

  6. says

    That little tornado is going to be one fit girl because of her mama – and then spread it to all the little chirren in her midst – oh the glory!

  7. Dan says

    I am in a two parent family — both male.
    I’ve definitely seen this play out at home.
    Thank you, Carla, for your broad definition of family and Mama.

  8. says

    I like your focus on quality in all areas. I also like your family breakfasts! It’s good to start the day with quality time too, not just end it that way. Evenings can be so hectic, and we don’t even have children yet. Having to eat dinner in a hurry or on the go isn’t always so bad if you do it the right/healthy way, right?

  9. says

    Yes!!! I feel like I set the tone for the family as a whole. If I am focused on keeping myself healthy…in more ways than just food…then my family will in turn be healthy!

  10. says

    Caring for yourself makes you better for everyone else.. a good example to “whoever” is around yo that it is not selfish but necessary… everyone is happy then!

  11. says

    I love this & totally agree! As a child I learned some not so great eating habits from my mom that I still struggle with. Even though I don’t have children, I do try to maintain a good sense about food since I am the main cook between Gary & myself. But those bad habits creep in from time to time….

  12. Valerie says

    I’ve found it to be true over and over again, in the course of 20 years of marriage and mama-hood. I’ve watched my daughters take on so many of my habits, both healthy and unhealthy. I’ve also seen the ups and downs of the health and strength of my relationship with my husband as my own self-care varied in consistency.

    I think it’s true of both partners, too. I think Daddy or Mommy #2 or Daddy #2 or whomever the other partner might be, can have a significant effect as well by practicing self-care or not doing so. And I know you aren’t saying that’s not true, it just struck me as I was thinking back on my effect on the family that I can also pinpoint changes in the family’s wellness which align with times when my husband was not adequately self-caring. It’s more rare for him to do so, and maybe that’s partly a matter of societal conditioning; I don’t know. I just know that I tend to feel guilty for caring for myself first, and he tends to not so much feel guilty for doing so. :-)

    I’ve thought of it this way: as the female adult, I’m the one my daughters look to in order to learn what it means to be a woman. My husband, as the male adult, is the one they look to in order to learn what a man is supposed to be. So while his influence is certainly important in terms of how they will relate to others, my influence is what teaches them how to BE, and that’s monumentally important. It helps remind me to stop and think about how I’m taking care of myself and living my life. Above all else, I want my children to be healthy and strong and happy and love life – so that’s what I need to strive for, and I need to do what it takes to make that happen. I don’t always succeed, and I certainly haven’t been lately, but it’s always my goal.

    I actually caught myself saying to my younger daughter this morning, “Don’t be me.” Lightheartedly and mostly in jest, but not entirely. I try to make sure when I’ve caught myself modeling something unhealthy, to own up to it, point it out and point out why it was unhealthy, and STOP doing it. I know I picked up a lot of my unhealthy emotional habits from my own mother, which I certainly don’t blame her for as she’s had an incredibly difficult life at times, but I don’t want to pass those on if I can help it.

  13. says

    Confession: I had to google the meaning of egalitarian.

    I wrote a post a while back called Mom Guilt where I discussed the fact that we as moms need to always lead by example. How often have you seen an unhealthy mom with a healthy child. Probably not often. The kids eat what we eat. If we’re active, our kids are active.

    When I’m asked what motivates me to live a healthy lifestyle, my immediate answer is my daughter. Not only to lead by example to her, but to also be around to for as long as possible to be a pain in her and my hubby’s butts. :)

  14. says

    I have always loved this quote too: “Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.” It’s so true, that all those little things we endure every day without thinking make up our entire life and we really need to realize that and enjoy those little moments that happen 100 times each day. I’m trying….

  15. says

    Absolutely! Whether we work at home/outside the home/not at all–mamas are still the in the command center at home. It is essential that we stay happy and healthy.

  16. says

    100%! My dad didn’t eat healthy growing up and neither did I. He also didn’t really handle stress well, and neither did I. Kids learn what they see. Those are two things I really want to do differently when I have kids.

  17. Denise says

    Really good stuff. My mom’s own influence is huge upon me and my siblings. Come over when my siblings are around and you’ll see raw spinach leaves being dipped in hummus like chips, and hard boiled eggs eaten straight from the refrigerator at any time of day or night.

    It’s hard not to compare myself to my mom… I know, “don’t compare your ‘beginning’ to someone else’s ‘middle’…” But I definitely see a correlation between self-care of my husband and I and the harmony in my house. And I love everything Valerie said.

  18. says

    Interesting. And so happy for you that you are able to work from home and do the back and forth to school walk with your daughter and dog.

  19. emmaclaire says

    I totally agree, Carla, and try to set the healthiest example I can. I do think when the partner is noticeably and vocally on-board with the choices one makes for the family, it reinforces everything in an exponential manner. The areas where DH is less committed (like potato chip purchase and consumption, for example), are the areas I notice the kiddos are also more lax in their own choices. On the other hand, the 3 5ks we have run as a family have been high on the list of the most fun we’ve had together as a family. Kids do learn what they see, and healthy choices are contagious!

  20. says

    I 100% agree with this and love the points you brought up about quality and mono-tasking. I never even thought about how focused babies/toddlers are before but it is true – and how very happy they are!!! This summer I’ve been working more on focusing on one thing at a time (the boys as often as possible) – so far it’s good other than the fact that I’m having to cut way back on the time I spend reading blogs.

  21. says

    I consider myself a feminist, and I totally agree with this statement. Actually in some households it may actually fall to papa, but women still tend to be the ones who set these guidelines for the family. Even without any young children at home, I still tend to be the one who keeps us healthy (though my husband is more the emotional nurturer than I).

  22. says

    my husband says this about me, but with being a wife. Ha! But you are so right, you cannot be a “present” mom or spouse unless you are present with yourself, health and all!

  23. says

    I 110% agree….it may seem selfish to take time to workout or eat well/snack or fit in quiet time – but as you said if mom isn’t balanced and healthy she isn’t at her best and EVERYONE will feel it. HOWEVER as a soon to be mom to twins I”m wondering how you started incorporating this when they were small? I know my time will be at a premium but I want to fit in exercise, food prep, etc. I am trying to come up with an intentional game plan now so I hit the ground running.

  24. says

    This was well-timed in my life as your posts often are. I am not a mom, but a very committed girlfriend to a very needy boyfriend with a child. I have been getting lost in helping others, which I love to do, butI vowed I would never forget myself and I find that I have. I teach people to take care of themselves first in my yoga classes and my cooking classes, but I seem to have allowed that priority to drift away. I’m going to be a mamma and am already pretty close to one, and I HAVE TO stay healthy first! Thank you Carla for being awesome as always and hitting home. I’ve also been looking to get hold of some “Unapologetically Myself” clothing and couldn’t remember if you sold any or what the deal was with that, or if you knew where I could manage to get hold of some. I clearly need a constant reminder to stop compromising my values and desires for others.

    • says

      I found the ordering page, though I had to look through old posts to find it. Is there a more convenient link to it somewhere?

  25. says

    I feel I glean so much from your posts. There’s so much wisdom in what you right. I especially struggle with guilt. Guilt for choosing to do things for myself (comes from my conservative Christian upbringing). Lately I’ve been making choices that are better for my well being and my family benefits. We value “coming together” very highly and the idea of having a “family identity,” like a team (also something i learned from my conservative Christian upbringing….shed the bad, embrace the good). Thanks for sharing.

  26. says

    The tone that momma sets for the house totally drives which direction the house goes in. Momma is a powerful woman. I’ve sacrificed well justified momma-tantrums for the sake of the family. Tantrums are not healthy. They take away the peace.

  27. says

    I’m not a mother so I can’t relate 100% but I do have to agree with you on butting your needs first. I see too many people with families live completely [and I mean nearing 100%] selfLESSly and it just does. not. work. Our own needs must be met in order for those around us to thrive. In my opinion, at least!

    Wonderful post.

  28. tara says

    One of the best articles I have ever read, and everything I feel, but expressed much better than I can.

  29. says

    Another thing I will like to add to it is that good and healthy family should come together to discuss family problems that is going on and how is going to be solved. There is no family no matter how happy and healthy it might be, there will be one or two challenges.

  30. cheryl says

    I always made healthy meals for daughter and we played daily when she came home from school-be it a bike ride to the park, a quick swim (laps with a kick board), or walking the dog before dinner…she loved her broccoli and still does. These are the easy years. Girls fall into eating traps (or not eating traps) in middle school/high school and eat what their friends do-no matter what mom is doing. Mom doesn’t matter anymore-for many years. They come around again, but just be prepared and choose your battles.

  31. says

    So true in any relationship, I think – if XYZ isn’t healthy & happy, there’s a domino effect! We really do have to take care of ourselves first in order to ensure the health & happiness of the people we love.

  32. says

    Too many parents fail to realize how much more important it is to set a good example than to TELL their kids to do the right things. You’re a great example of how living the life you want your kids to lead is the best way for them to be happy and healthy.